After years of researching T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings' work and scouring the market for his original designs, which are hard to come by, Paris dealer Eric Philippe has put together a small, but stunning exhibition of 15 examples of the designer's finest work, including several pieces of furniture from Casa Encantada, Robsjohn-Gibbings's California masterpiece.
"In the late 1930s and in the Forties, he was the most important decorator in America," Philippe says of the British-born Robsjohn-Gibbings, who set up shop on New York's Madison Avenue in 1936 and proceeded to design houses from coast to coast for such scions as tobacco heiress Doris Duke, Alfred A. Knopf and Thelma Chrysler Foy. "He was successful at mixing classical elements from ancient Greece and the Art Déco period in a modern way that appealed to American tastes."
One of the designer's most important residential commissions was Hilda Boldt Weber's mansion Casa Encantada in Bel-Air. Creating more than 200 pieces of furniture for that house between 1934 and 1938, Robsjohn-Gibbings indulged his passion for Greco-Roman design by incorporating sphinxes, dolphins, lions' paw feet and Ionic columns in table bases, torchères and select pieces of furniture, nonetheless keeping the interior design simple and elegant. Casa Encantada survived its sale to Conrad Hilton in 1952, but its next owner, David Murdoch, stripped the house of what was called "opulent simplicity" and auctioned off the contents in the early 1980s.
Since then pieces come up for sale every once in a while, mostly in the United States, making Philippe's offering a significant one. Highlights include a pair of gilt-wood torchères whose fluted shafts are guarded by three carved maple doves, a console table consisting of a carved open-winged griffin supporting an ash-and-burr top and a pair of wall lamps carved in a Chinese Art Déco style, which the dealer is showing alongside other 1930s and '40s Robsjohn-Gibbings designs, such as a pair of oversized armchairs perched on horn-shaped blond mahogany feet and upholstered in yellow handwoven wool. Philippe also has four of Maynard L. Parker's photos of Casa Encantada from 1940.